There are politicians who are low-down, good-for-nothing assholes. And then there’s House Speaker Paul Ryan, an elected Republican so craven he is fine with grandstanding about the Second Amendment to a man whose father was killed by a white supremacist.
During a town hall event hosted by CNN in Ryan’s home district on Monday night, Pardeep Kaleka—whose father Satwant Singh Kaleka was the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin before he was killed five years ago in a shooting in suburban Milwaukee—asked Ryan what Congress is doing to stop the growth of white supremacists and far-right extremists.
What came next was a masterclass in staying on message with words that sound compassionate but mean nothing. (The encounter begins at 19:09 in the video below)
“First of all, I remember you, I remember meeting you at your dad’s funeral,” Ryan began. “You have my condolences, I’ve been working with your community to make sure the kind of bigotry I know you have experienced...”
He then trailed off, before praising the outpouring of community support for Sikh residents after the shooting that left six dead.
After praising the police who responded to the shooting, Ryan smoothly pivoted to the usual GOP talking points. “We have to do a better job of making sure that criminals don’t get guns, or those suspected of terrorism, like domestic terrorism, don’t get guns,” he said. The audience clapped.
“We also have to make sure we protect our Second Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens,” Ryan continued. “So there’s always a balance when you discuss these types of things.”
That sound you hear is the slow churn of a well-oiled machine, greased by the gun lobby: reducing a man’s father to another factor to be weighed in the complicated calculus of “these types of things.”
Kaleka had started his question by emphasizing that Wade Michael Page, the gunman who killed his father, was a white supremacist who was well-known to the FBI, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Anti-Defamation League. Still, he was able to legally purchase a firearm and ammunition just six days before the attack.
Nothing Ryan gestured at would’ve prevented Page from buying the gun that killed Kaleka’s father in the temple he founded. In the eyes of the law and under Ryan’s definition, a white supremacist gunman was just another “law-abiding citizen” exercising his right to bear arms.